Scarborough Subway (via SRT) Feasibility Study (Update 7)

Updated October 2, 2013 at 12:30 pm:

Metrolinx has released a transcript of a press conference held earlier today regarding their letter to the City Manager about the Scarborough subway.

In related news, Metrolinx advises (through a separate email) that they are “approximately 3 months away from making [a] formal recommendation on Sheppard and Finch” LRT lines, and the possible acceleration of these projects.

Also, regarding Eglinton-Yonge Station, they “hope to have a final concept that Metrolinx, City and TTC agree on in the coming weeks and will present in the public session of the Metrolinx December Board meeting”.

Updated October 2, 2013 at 10:30 am:

Metrolinx has sent a letter to Toronto’s City Manager regarding the proposed Scarborough subway.  Unlike some pronouncements from Queen’s Park, this takes a more conciliatory tone for discussions between Ontario and the City of Toronto.  Notable points include:

  • Metrolinx continues to believe that LRT “would provide an effective rapid transit solution to the transportation challenges in this area” within the available funding, but bows to the desire by all three levels of government to build a subway.
  • Metrolinx is not dictating that a specific route be chosen, but wants a proper alternatives analysis as part of the Environmental Assessment.  This contradicts earlier statements by the government implying that only one route was to be funded.  It also implies that the shorter “Transit Project Assessment” process (which does not include the potentially embarrassing need to review alternatives) will not be used.
  • The Province is sticking with a figure of $1.48-billion in available funding, from which must be deducted the $85m in sunk costs for the Scarborough LRT project and unspecified costs of scaling down the LRT car order from Bombardier.
  • Although the $320m reserved for the Kennedy Station reconstruction with both the Eglinton and Scarborough LRT lines may not all be required, additional costs are expected at the Yonge-Eglinton interchange beyond the current project budget.  Savings from Kennedy may be redirected to Yonge-Eglinton.  If there is anything left of the $320m between the two projects, then it could be directed to the Scarborough subway.
  • The Scarborough subway will be entirely a City/TTC project contrary to previous schemes for the LRT that would have seen provincial ownership and a PPP arrangement similar to that proposed for the Eglinton line.  This begs a question regarding the accounting for the provincial funding contribution: if you don’t own the line, you can’t book the asset as an offset to the money spent on it.  Does this mark a shift away from the creative accounting used to justify taking Toronto’s transit projects away from the TTC in the first place?
  • Provincial funding will begin to flow in the 2018/19 fiscal year implying that no serious construction will be underway until then.  The City and/or Federal government will have to front end the project with funding for the EA and preliminary engineering.  All risk for project cost overruns will be to the City’s account.
  • Infrastructure Ontario remains available to participate in this project, but this is no longer a requirement of the Province for funding.  The decision on whether to use IO or to proceed with a conventional procurement (as on the Spadina extension) is up to the City of Toronto.

Not included in the letter, but reported through Twitter by John Michael McGrath, is a comment from Metrolinx that they are reviewing the timing of the Sheppard and Finch LRT projects.

This letter provides a more balanced response to Scarborough subway issue than some recent statements by Ontario Transportation Minister Glen Murray, and it is good to see Metrolinx acting as a reasonable broker rather than simply as a rubber stamp for ministerial musings.  The next major step will be Council’s discussion of the matter at the October 8-9 meeting.

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